By Victor Tolu-Taiwo
I have travelled thousands of miles with Miles Davis listening to his kind of blues, the beautiful song by Louis Armstrong ‘what a wonderful world’ still makes the world a wonderful place, the Breezing of George Benson brought a new breeze to pop jazz and a lot of my favorite jazz tunes like all of me, so what , autumn leaves ,summertime, c jam blues , spain, take five and lots more. I can say Jazz has proven to be a genre of refined style, unfiltered expression, and of defiant artistry. Artistes like Louis Armstrong , Wes Montgomery , Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and jazz vocalists like Billie holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole are timeless as their works continue to transcend generations.
History has it that the genre originated from New Orleans in USA by the African American whose roots are from west Africa who migrated to the United State. The genre can be traced back to the rhythmic melodic lines of songs by the black slaves during the time they work on the farm, a happy time especially during harvest time and equally when they are having a blue day. The origin of jazz was an expression and ounce of the pain and joy the black slaves were feeling then, especially during the ragtime blue era.
As a Nigerian from the western part of the African continent, i always feel that this genre is part of our root and a kind of music we can identify with and call ours. The likes of Hugh Masekela , Jimmy Dludlu, Moses Molekwa, Angelique Kidjo ,Tony Allen ,Lagbaja, Richard Bona, amongst others have done well to express African culture through this genre. However, back here in Nigeria, the Fela Ransome Kuti quintet, ‘The Jazz Preachers’ led by Art Alade the father of the amazing Dare Art-Alade created good foundation for the genre playing jazz tunes and standards in the 60’s. Also, ‘The Extended Family’ jazz band of the amazing couple Tunde and Fran kuboye brings more glamour to the genre in Nigeria.
According to history, the 70’s to mid-80’s was the time jazz music was at its peak in Nigeria.
The emergence and commercial success of pop music, reggae, and disco dance hall genre during the 70’s diminished and made jazz a less popular genre, also the ever consistent traditional and local music such as juju, apala and highlife garner more followers and audience, hence reducing the reach of the genre. The birth and increasing popularity of afro beat changed the game, also the persistency at which the legendary Fela Anikulapo Kuti used in driving the music through activism promoting the Africa culture. This equally must have ignited and inspired the creativity of upcoming artistes then in fusing jazz with afrobeat to showcase and tell the African story. Artistes like Lagbaja, Femi Kuti, Kunle Odutayo, Adedeji Adetayo, Femi Leye have done well doing this. The religious setting, especially the Pentecostal churches that support contemporary music have also helped artistes like Agboola Shadare, Mike Aremu, Wole Oni, Nathaniel Bassey and a lot of amazing talented musicians to express themselves using our native gospel songs to promote and sell jazz music.
From the rag time blue era, to the swing era, to the bebop era and down to the pop cool era of jazz music, the fundamental of the music hasn’t changed but rather innovative and ingenious creativity the genre accommodates has given birth to fusion from different background and cultures. It’s amazing how jazz music can be embellished with other genre of music to form classic and standard that suit lovers and listener of it. With different subgenres like acid jazz, Latin jazz, pop jazz, smooth jazz ,traditional jazz, modal jazz, gospel jazz, big band, afro jazz, I think there is more than enough that will suit and meet everyone’s taste of music. It’s a music for all.
Moving forward, the Nigeria music entertainment has grown to become a multi-billion dollar industry with the popularity of Afro pop as the mainstay. I believe jazz music can still carve its niche and be a commercial success. To bring this genre back to live, promoters need to bring the music to the people by organizing seasoned jazz festivals that will showcase local artiste and international acts, the organizers of Lagos jazz series and Lagos International jazz festival are doing a great a work, consistency and persistency are needed here . Also more jazz cafes and clubs are needed to promote the genre, jazz hole in Lagos is not only serving this purpose, they are also promoting art and culture, more of its kind is needed.
Organizing concerts and festivals using monument and tourism parks can be used to connect and reach more audience and this consciously will help promote our culture and tourism as a country.
Here is to the lovers and listeners of this amazing genre. Happy international jazz day.